The past three years I've watched James participate in the OKC 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb. The first year I went with him was the first year of the event in OKC. It was a pretty amazing and humbling experience watching all these local firefighters climb for their FD brothers who were killed when the Towers fell. These local firefighters climbed 110 floors in honor of their fallen brethren.
That first year James was the only one from his department to climb. Because they had such a small number of participants, he climbed for multiple FDNY firefighters. (He still only had to climb 110 floors, but he carried the names of multiple men.)
The following year two more firefighters from his department joined him, and it seemed like a lot more people participated. The crowd in Leadership Square were the ceremony took place was much bigger than the previous year.
After the ceremony was complete, the firefighters made their way to the building. It was chilling to watch the firefighters line up and march while bagpipes played.
This year there were five people from James's department climbing. And for the first time there were 343 firefighters signed up to make the climb. That meant that each firefighter climbed for one person. Each firefighter wore the name of someone who died on 9/11 around their neck.
I took a picture of each of our firefighter's name tags. They climbed for Andrew Jordan - Ladder 132, Michael Kiefer - Ladder 132, Thomas Mingione - Ladder 132, John Vigiano II - Ladder 132, and Christian Regenhard - Ladder 131. These aren't just names on a lanyard. These were men who gave their lives thirteen years ago. They died trying to save others.
This year it was raining the morning of the climb, so everyone gathered in the lobby of the building. Bagpipes played, prayers were prayed, and the firefighters waited patiently for their turn. They climbed the 110 floors and then returned the accountability tag featuring the fallen firefighter's name to the board.
It is always a moving experience. Each year is different but I hope we are here every year for the foreseeable future. It is an honor to watch these men and women honor those who gave it all on 9/11.
On a lighter note, local meterologist Emily Sutton sang the National Anthem before the climb. She's engaged to a firefighter and this is her second time at the climb. I had no idea she could sing but she was pretty great! Plus she is super nice, I chatted with her briefly while I took pictures. Here's a video I caught of her singing and the crowd during the anthem.
These stair climbs honor the first responders who gave their lives that day. But today, on the anniversary of that dark day, let's remember everyone who was killed in the acts of terrorism against our country. All the men and women who died not only in the Towers, but also in the Pentagon and in the Pennsylvania field. Not to mention all the lives that were subsequently affected by the ensuing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. 9/11 is a dark day indeed, and I pray that we never forget.